The Cranky Gardener

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To Everything There Is A Season...

This morning I did something that I swore I would never do. I contracted with a lawn service to mow my grass and do the trimming. I can hear my grandfather tsk tsking from on high. How, you may wonder, did I arrive at this sorry state of affairs?

The truth of the matter is that old Cranky here isn't as young as she used to be. And Mr Cranky's health continues to deteriorate, meaning that I am having to take on more and more of the work. Last year he was still able to putter outside a little until mid-summer and another heart attack. This year he has been pretty much house and porch bound. He is winded just walking from the house to the shed. His gardening days are over.

So here's the plan. If I don't have the lawn to worry about then I might be able to keep up with my veggie patch and my flower beds. At least it will give me a fighting chance. Plus both of my mowers are getting old and need replacing. For the price of replacing the rider I can pay a lawn service for a long time. Heck, every time I try to use it I have to air up a tire, and it has caught fire three times. I shall clean it up, run an ad, and try to sell it to a mechanic who doesn't mind fiddling with it.

I am also going to scale back the size of my vegetable garden. I don't have the time to can beans or make pickles, for example, so why grow more beans and cucumbers than I can use fresh? I shall plant the regular number of tomatoes and peppers, since I use them in so many different things. This is the last year I'll grow eggplants. I had such a bumper crop of them this year that I'm plumb eggplanted out. The thought of eating another eggplant casserole turns my pallor green. And I plan to cut back on the number of hills of squash I plant. I had enough squash this year for an army. So I'll only plant the White Patty Pan and the Gold Rush Zucchini, both of which are unavailable at the market. And I'll continue to plant snow peas and an early salad bed.

I have also decided to retire the tiller. Several years ago a wonderful book was published called 'Lasagna Gardening' by Patricia Lanza. I have considered switching to this method of preparing beds ever since, but Mr Cranky is of the old school and doesn't hold with some of these new fangled ideas. Now that he no longer goes outside enough to know what I'm doing, I am going to become a lasagna gardener.

Lanza began lasagna gardening when she was in a similar situation to mine. She had a lot of garden to take care of and no help. So she needed an easy way to produce garden beds. Rather than digging her beds, she began using a layering system and built the beds up. Her system creates rich planting beds in areas where digging would be difficult. It also eliminates much of the weeding and hoeing necessary in traditional gardens.

Lasagna beds are created on top of the ground. You need newspapers or cardboard and organic matter. Stake out the dimensions of your bed then cover it with a thick layer of wet newspapers or cardboard. Then you begin to place your organic materials on top of the papers in three to six inch layers. Good ingredients to use for layers include grass clippings, straw, hay, compost, peat moss, sawdust, animal manures, chopped garden stalks, chopped leaves, seaweed, kelp, mushroom compost, and salt hay and ashes. Be creative. Use what is available locally. If you live near a feed mill, for example, you may be able to find buckwheat hulls or other by-products. Or if you live near a brewery, you may be able to find hops.

Build your bed up to a height of at least 18 inches. Two feet would be even better.

This method is so successful because what you are actually doing is sheet composting. Instead of using traditional compost piles, you are
spreading your compost ingredients out in thin layers. The end result is the same as in a large compost pile - rich, crumbly soil.

It is possible to plant directly into your layers the same day you create the bed. But you may want to cook your bed. To do this you can build your bed in the fall for use the following spring. Or you can cover the entire bed with black plastic and leave it for about six weeks.

If you are interested in this planting method, you will definitely want to read Lanza's book. She followed it a few years later with a book called 'Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces' in which she explains how to apply the principles of lasagna gardening to small gardens and containers.

Speaking of containers, this is another way to garden without the necessity of digging and weeding. I have some large containers already and am planning to buy some more. I'll set them in the middle of my flower beds and fill them with annuals. Much simpler than planting directly into the ground each year. But remember that plants in containers require more water and fertilizer than plants in beds.

So, although my future gardening will be a little different than it has been in the past, I think I've come up with a good plan. It should eliminate a lot of the frustration I've felt the past couple of years at not being able to keep my garden looking as neat as I like. And let me enjoy it again.

This week's recipe is for... drumroll... lasagna. What else? Just kidding.

Actually, it is for a marvellous potato omelette that my father-in-law used to make. It can be served at room temperature which makes it perfect for a picnic or a road trip.

Potato Omelette


  • 4fl oz - 125 ml, ½ cup - plus 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2lb - 1kg - potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch (6mm) thick
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4oz - 125g - ham, linquica, or pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, green or red, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley


  1. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a large heavy skillet over low heat. Add half of the potatoes and cook until tender but not brown. Remove and set aside.
  2. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and salt and pepper the potatoes to taste.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Sauté the onions and pepper until soft and remove from the skillet.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the onions and peppers, the ham, and salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked potatoes.
  5. Pour this mixture into the remaining oil in the skillet and cook until the bottom is set and golden.
  6. Invert a plate over the skillet, flip both over and remove the pan. Slide the omelette back into the skillet and continue to cook over low heat until the other side is cooked.
  7. Slide onto a plate and cut into 6 to 8 wedges. Garnish with parsley if desired.

The Cranky Gardener


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